Archive for the ‘Celebrating creation’ Category

Have you ever sung to a seal?

My first experience of seal-singing was on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, on the north-east coast of England.

After having been recommended the practice by a friend who lived on the island, I embraced the idea with only some trepidation. I’m not a good singer. I was feeling for the seals.

First we had to find some seals.

After making our way over to the north side of the island, and picking our way along the shore, we were delighted to come across several seals who were lounging-around on the rocks.

This was the first time we’d seen seals since our arrival in the UK. And it was pretty exciting. The only thing was that they were quite a distance away.

In addition, they were very content in staying put. They were sun baking – and sun doesn’t appear much in the north of England (so says an Aussie). If I were a seal, I would have been making the most of any opportunity as well. As we waited around to see if they’d had their fill of sunshine, we became slowly entranced by their lying around. They just lay there. Flapped a flipper around here and there. The odd seal-grunt of satisfaction. It was all simply indulgent. So simple. It sank into me – and infused throughout me – they were thoroughly enjoying just being. Questions rang in the back of my mind: when did I last do that? And, why don’t I do it more often?

Still, I had an objective. A task was before me. After having made this great discovery, I was a little disappointed that they were a bit too far away for singing. And, while there were no other people around, an untrained, warbally, loud singing voice would be the very thing to make concerned holiday-makers come running in case I was raising an alarm. So we took photos and enjoyed the spectacle, without the additional human company.

Choosing to meander further along the shore, it wasn’t too much later that we found another, smaller group of seals, who were also making the most of the sun. Except this time, they were closer in.

…Here goes. My music-aficionado partner shook his head in disbelief.

The thing is, they noticed. One, younger, more inquisitive seal was so impressed that he slid of the rock for a closer look at this singing being.

From then on we were dancing in a relationship of curiosity. Me, fascinated by the effect of my voice on the seals, and the seals, especially the young one, entranced by my voice.

I have no idea why some seals are drawn to humans singing. But they are. And from then on, whenever we toured the coasts of Scotland, my eyes were peeled for more opportunities.

There was one other time when we had a singing-seal encounter.

It was on the south-east coast of Harris, part of the distant island of Scotland which is known as the Outer Hebrides.

We were driving the coast road and my eyes scanned the countless grey rocks (of which every second looked like a grey seal), that spanned the coves. There! That’s not a rock. That there is a seal! We jumped out of the warm car and quickly rugged up in several extra layers, and then made our way to the embankment that overlooked the little beach.

This time a little group were lying around on a bed of seaweed. And this time, when I plucked up the early notes, two smaller seals slid into the water to come a little nearer.

As I searched my mind for songs or snippets of songs that I knew the words to, I was again struck by the beauty of the interaction.

Here I was, offering something to a seal (poor as the tune might be). And it was fascinated by me.

It somehow brought me onto a different level.  The worries – about where we would stay that night, what we would eat for lunch, and whether we’d get to see the highlights of the island in our short visit – all vanished and it was just us and the seals, enjoying a moment. Being together. Us, them, the ocean and the sky.

Whenever I reflect on my seal-singing experiences I am filled with wonder and gratitude. And thankfulness to the woman who shared her own joy of it. Now that we’re back in Australia, I wonder whether our southern-hemisphere seals like human tunes as well. And I wonder whether I’ll ever again share such a special moment with these friendly ocean creatures.

Having said all that, I hope that this story has also conveyed the humour and joy of the Creator. Who thinks of such lovely, life-giving details as curious and time-indulgent seals.


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This is my song for the raspberries

It comes without a tune

But my song is a delicious one

Though they’re eaten all too soon.


This is a song about raspberries

They’re growing out the back

Safe in a net, hidden from birds

My perfect little snack.


I quite like this seedy song

You bitter sweet tang of berry

The tune on my tongue is a happy one

I wish it would last longer – very.


Baby face is covered

In tracks of goey fest

The delight in her eyes is a telling one…

Puts my sharing to the test.


I hope this song continues

For another week or two

I wish I had a magic trick

To extend this delightful coup.


But the berry season just has to end

Like this rhyming wit

I hope you’ll join me in a prayer

In thanks for this classic hit.


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Check out this message by Phil Kniss: “To serve God and the land.”

“To serve God and the land”

Here are a few snippets to whet your appetite:

“…the Bible, as a whole, is not a random collection. It has a plot. The plot begins in Genesis with creation. It ends in Revelation with a new creation. And everything in between is a long story of God working to save and redeem and restore creation, which has suffered from the destructive forces of sin.”

“What happens when we start with the story that God created the world in beauty and wholeness and shalom, and after God’s human creation rebelled God’s full-time project is bringing creation back to shalom?”

“The cross stands at the apex, the pinnacle, of this sweeping saga of God’s work to save and restore all of creation. It was not just for me and my sins that Jesus died. It was for all the brokenness in creation that resulted, directly or indirectly, from human sin.”
And …
“The other thing that happens is that we see God in the right light. We begin to grasp the intimate, loving relationship God has with all creation, even in its broken state.”
See here if you’re having trouble accessing the clip.

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In some Christian calendars, today, 26th August is marked as the day to remember Fiacre (died 670).

“A patron of gardeners, and always depicted with a spade, Fiacre was an Irish travelling hermit who settled at Meaux, in Brittany. There he is said to have built the first hostel for Irish pilgrims on the continent and maintained a large vegetable garden to feed his guests. The place where he lived and died is now called Saint-Fiacre.

“This day is also an alternative day for the remembrance of Ninian, who also developed a large garden to feed the many pilgrims who visited Whithorn.”


“Earth Maker,

by whose life we are born and sustained,

as we thank you for the careful tending of Fiacre,

help us to tend this planet, your garden,

to the best of our ability.”


Ray Simpson, The Celtic Prayer Book, volume 2: Saints of the Isles, 2003, Kevin Mayhew, Suffolk.

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What are your favourite memories of your childhood?

Being indoors or out?

Being with adults or far from their watchful eyes?

This article in the Guardian discusses several studies which have considered the benefits and risks of kids playing outdoors.

The conclusion: kids are better kids, and our society is made better through them, if they’ve spent time outside.

For example,

[e]motional benefits include reduced aggression and increased happiness.”

For me, I loved making water-proof cubby houses, growing veggies in my own corner of the garden and bouncing up and down on bendy tree branches.


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We need creation. So argues Russell D. Moore in an article about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

We need it, because it provides us with everything practical for us to survive. We need warmth and light from the sun, oxygen and sustenance from plants, and mud, clay and trees to shelter us.

We need it because we’re made of it: “….we’re made of Spirit-enlivened mud.” We are not disembodied beings.

More than that, Moore explains that God has hard-wired us to see God’s hand in creation (Romans 1:18-21).

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (verse 20)

This is not Moore saying that God is creation. Rather, creation is God’s masterpiece – here for us to marvel at and to be thankful to the Creator for its mysterious and magnificent design, and for the way it provides for our physical needs.

What does it mean for me? I can’t help but think of Banjo Patterson’s poem “Clancy of the Overflow”, of the wistfulness expressed about wanting to be outdoors. He writes of Clancy:

"And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
   In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
  And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars."

This attitude is shared by others. In a 2008 study of church-going Protestants in Scotland, 82.7% said that they found “being outdoors and appreciating the beauty of nature” was influential in shaping their attitudes towards the environment.

Being earthly beings ourselves, and seeing the wonderful creation God has made (and continually sustains) around us, is it any wonder that we love being outdoors?

As image-bearers of God and co-heirs with Christ, creation is also ours – and we need it to flourish ourselves. Yet Moore reminds us that our dominion of creation should be characterised by humble service. He writes, “….this isn’t a pharaoh-like dominion; it’s a Christ-like dominion.”

What does this mean for Christians – conservative and liberal alike? It means dominion over creation both when we use it and when we conserve it for future generations.

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When we think of “Hippo” and “Christianity”, what comes to mind?

One answer might be that Augustine (354-430) was Bishop of a place called Hippo (from 395-430).

Another might be that God loves hippos.

Hard to believe? They are very bad tempered, not very cuddly or good looking and in the eyes of most humans they are not very useful either.

Yet, God really does love hippos, and greenFish has adapted the work of Calvin DeWitt to show young people why (See: God loves hippos).

About hippos God said things like…

….what power in the muscles of his belly!”


“…it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth.”

Even though this resource focuses on hippos as an example (and what a great example!) greenFish put together this resource explain God’s love for, and celebration of, all creation.

It includes some fun activities in response to the material as well at 11 fascinating facts about hippos.

For example, did you know that hippos produce their own sunscreen?

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